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THE BODYGUARD – Alan Silvestri

November 10, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If you listened to popular music on the radio, or watched TV, at any point in 1992, then you will have found it impossible to escape the pervasive reach of “I Will Always Love You,” singer Whitney Houston’s cover of the classic 1973 Dolly Parton song. “I Will Always Love You” was being used in the soundtrack of Houston’s debut film as a leading actress, The Bodyguard, and it was everywhere that summer. It went on to break numerous chart records for sales and staying power – it won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance (Female) – while the Bodyguard soundtrack album itself went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, ultimately becoming the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time, the best-selling album by a woman in music history, and the best-selling album of the entire 1990s decade. Overlooked in all of this hoopla and success is the film’s score, which was written by Alan Silvestri – something which I intend to correct here.

The Bodyguard is a romantic thriller directed by Mick Jackson, starring Houston, Kevin Costner, singer/actor Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet, and veteran character actor Bill Cobbs. Costner plays Frank Farmer, a former United States Secret Service agent who is hired as a bodyguard by actress and singer Rachel Marron (Houston), who is receiving death threats from an unknown stalker. The screenplay was written by Lawrence Kasdan, who originally wrote it as a potential vehicle for Steve McQueen in the 1970s; then the film was scheduled to go into production in 1978 with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross as the leads, before a protracted period of development hell kept it away from screens for more than a decade, until the Costner-Houston version finally got the green light. The film was a massive commercial success, grossing more than $400 million at the box office, but was less successful with critics; Houston essentially made only two more films (Waiting to Exhale in 1995, and The Preacher’s Wife in 1996), prior to her tragic death in 2012.

Alan Silvestri was actually a late replacement on The Bodyguard for original composer John Barry, who had written a main theme for the film, but who according to director Jackson ‘didn’t quite get what the film was about,’ and left the project during post-production. Silvestri came in instead, and almost instinctively knew that his music was going to be playing second fiddle to the plethora of Houston pop songs, and was there to enhance the emotion romantic between Frank and Rachel, and to add an appropriate amount of tension to the scenes of stalking and harassment, as well as the action finale at the Academy Awards ceremony, where Rachel is presenting an award and is the intended victim of an assassin.

His score is anchored around a single main theme, which Silvestri designated as a theme for Frank, but which appears on the soundtrack as “Theme from The Bodyguard”. It’s a wonderful piece of sultry neo-noir built around a lonely solo trumpet performed by Gary Grant, that is intended to encapsulate Frank’s character as a man who cannot let personal feelings get in the way of professional obligations where his work is concerned. However, as the film unfolds, Frank and Rachel of course become romantically involved, and as that relationship deepens, the sultry trumpet for Frank is joined by a jazzy piano and cool, elegant strings. Cues like “Can I Help You,” “Frank Unpacks,” and the lovely “Do You Mind” are prime examples of this development of the theme, offering some moments of tender romance between the songs, while later in “Well, Well, Well/Overlay” the theme is beautifully moved from trumpet to flute.

A more intimate love theme for Frank and Rachel begins to emerge in the lovely “Only If You Want To,” a delicate melody for tender pianos, but it never really has a full lush arrangement, despite threatening to do so in “How About That” and “The Stairs”. It’s a shame that the love theme never really establishes itself as a major presence in the score, not even in the emotionally heightened finale “My Bodyguard,” because the theme actually has a lovely melody (reminiscent in places of the classic Roberta Flack song “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love”) and could easily have stood the weight of a more fulsome string orchestration.

The other significant part of the score is action and suspense, related to the film’s main plot driver about an unknown stalker that wants to kill Rachel for reasons yet to be revealed. The action parts of the score are built around a secondary theme for Frank that first appears at the very beginning of the first cue, “Watch and See,” arranged for harp, but later leaps fully into action in “Followed/On the Job,” in which the basic structure of the main theme as given a kick of bold energy with racing strings, snare drum licks, and a more militaristic sound from the brass. This is a sensational piece of rampant action – it reminds me a little of the music Silvestri would go on to write for scores like Judge Dredd – and later cues such as “Silly Job” revisit the action motif with welcome prominence. There is also a slightly more introspective variation on the action theme heard in cues like “What Are You Doing/Where Is She/I’m Through,” “It Doesn’t Matter/Where’s Fletcher,” and “Tell Me About It,” which is less frantic and speaks more to Frank’s steely determination.

Interspersed between this are some sequences of more low-key suspense – “Weirdo/Someone Was In Here,” “Walkman/Another One” “Be Careful/I Don’t Approve/The Sword” – which work well enough at creating an uncertain mood in context, but are less interesting as standalone listens. I do like the more large-scale and menacing “Not There,” however, which has a rich noir sound and some Predator-esque percussion writing that is quite compelling.

One other piece definitely worth listening to is the stunning “Snow/I Understand Now/Just One,” a one-off moment of gorgeous Americana that accompanies Frank, Rachel, and her family, as they arrive at a secluded Lake Tahoe cabin to try to escape from the stalker. Silvestri uses lyrical woodwinds and warm, wholesome horns to create a sense of peacefulness, and blends them with probably the best performance of the Frank/Rachel love theme. The whole things sounds more like something from a western than a contemporary romantic thriller – but, either way, it’s superb.

The film’s big finale encompasses the cues from “Relax A Little” through to the end of “My Bodyguard/How’s It Going” and underscores the sequence set at the Academy Awards where Frank saves Rachel from a gun-toting assassin who tries to shoot her. “Relax A Little” revisits the suspense textures before becoming darkly intense and brooding in its finale with the score’s most fulsome statement of the ‘introspective variation’ on the action theme. “This Is the Night/Coming Thrill/Portman/Please Welcome” segues into “The Winner Is/Where’s Portman” and eventually erupts into a final burst of dense action in “Lunatic” after several minutes of tense build-up. The conclusive “My Bodyguard/How’s It Going” is filled with relief and pathos, a finishes with a warm final statement of Frank’s trumpet main theme.

I can’t leave without saying a few words about the mega-hit commercial soundtrack album. While it may be hard to believe now, Whitney Houston was probably the most famous pop singer in the world in the early 1990s, and The Bodyguard is for me her best album of songs: “I Will Always Love You” is of course the showstopper, but the others are no slouches either. “I Have Nothing,” written by David Foster and Linda Thompson, is a mega-watt power ballad. Her version of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” is a terrific take on a disco-era classic. “Run to You,” written by Allan Rich and Jud Friedman, has a sweeping and dramatic refrain, while “Queen of the Night” written by Houston with R&B legends LA Reid and Babyface Edmonds, has an unexpectedly aggressive urban energy. Lisa Stansfield’s “Someday I’m Coming Back” was a massive hit in its own right in the UK, a terrific bit of northern soul, I’m not afraid to admit that I quite like the Curtis Stigers cover of the Elvis Costello classic “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding”, and there’s even a track from Sheffield’s own gravel-voiced legend Joe Cocker, duetting with Sass Jordan on “Trust In Me”.

It’s perhaps understandable that Alan Silvestri’s score for The Bodyguard was understandably overshadowed by the monstrously popular song soundtrack, considering that only the main theme was originally included on it, tacked on at the end almost as an afterthought. Thankfully, this album from La-La Land Records, released in 2012 to coincide with the films 20th anniversary, finally does justice to one of Silvestri’s least discussed works of the 1990s. With its winning combination of sultry jazz, hesitant romance, and occasional vivid flashes of intense action, it’s an easy recommendation.

Buy the Bodyguard soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • SCORE ALBUM
  • Theme from The Bodyguard (2:44)
  • Watch and See/Meet Rachel/Fletcher/Can I Help You (3:40)
  • Weirdo/Someone Was In Here (1:17)
  • Frank Unpacks (1:24)
  • Followed/On the Job (3:08)
  • Just Dinner (1:02)
  • Walkman/Another One (3:20)
  • Not There (1:27)
  • Only If You Want To/I Know Why/Got You/The Glove/The Locker (3:06)
  • Be Careful/I Don’t Approve/The Sword (4:14)
  • Silly Job (0:54)
  • Well, Well, Well/Overlay (1:44)
  • What Are You Doing/Where Is She/I’m Through (3:24)
  • Snow/I Understand Now/Just One (5:23)
  • How About That (3:14)
  • It Doesn’t Matter/Where’s Fletcher (3:09)
  • Tell Me About It (4:20)
  • The Stairs/It’s Not Your Fault/Do You Mind (3:01)
  • Relax A Little (1:32)
  • This Is the Night/Coming Thrill/Portman/Please Welcome (3:00)
  • The Winner Is/Where’s Portman (1:58)
  • Lunatic (3:15)
  • My Bodyguard/How’s It Going (2:26)
  • Theme from The Bodyguard (Film Mix Version) (2:44) BONUS
  • Meet Rachel (Alternate Version) (0:49) BONUS
  • The Winner Is (Alternate Version) (1:41) BONUS
  • It Doesn’t Matter (Alternate Version) (1:32) BONUS
  • How’s It Going (Alternate Version) (1:21) BONUS
  • Party Piano (Source Music) (2:28) BONUS
  • Theme from The Bodyguard (Album Alternate Version) (3:53) BONUS
  • SOUNDTRACK ALBUM
  • I Will Always Love You (written by Dolly Parton, performed by Whitney Houston) (4:31)
  • I Have Nothing (written by David Foster and Linda Thompson, performed by Whitney Houston) (4:49)
  • I’m Every Woman (written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, performed by Whitney Houston) (4:45)
  • Run to You (written by Allan Rich and Jud Friedman, performed by Whitney Houston) (4:24)
  • Queen of the Night (written by Whitney Houston, Antonio Reid, Kenneth Edmonds, and Daryl Simmons, performed by Whitney Houston) (3:08)
  • Jesus Loves Me (written by Anna Bartlett Warner and William Batchelder Bradbury, performed by Whitney Houston) (5:12)
  • Even If My Heart Would Break (written by Franne Golde and Adrian Gurvitz, performed by Kenny G and Aaron Neville) (4:58)
  • Someday I’m Coming Back (written by Lisa Stansfield, Andy Morris, and Ian Devaney, performed by Lisa Stansfield) (4:57)
  • It’s Gonna Be a Lovely Day (written by Bill Withers, Skip Scarborough, Robert Clivillés, David Cole, Tommy Never, Michelle Visage, performed by The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M.) (4:47)
  • What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding (written by Nick Lowe, performed by Curtis Stigers) (4:04)
  • Waiting for You (written and performed by Kenny G) (4:58)
  • Trust in Me (written by Charlie Midnight, Marc Swersky, and Francesca Beghe, performed by Joe Cocker feat. Sass Jordan) (4:12)
  • Theme from The Bodyguard (2:40)

Running Time: 77 minutes 10 seconds – Score
Running Time: 57 minutes 44 seconds – Soundtrack

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1225 (1992/2012) – Score
Arista/BMG Entertainment 07822-18699-2 (1992) – Soundtrack

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by William Ross. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Cliff Kohlweck. Soundtrack album produced by David Foster, Roy Lott, Whitney Houston and Clive Davis. Score album produced by Alan Silvestri, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and Dan Goldwasser.

  1. Kevin
    November 10, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Good review. I remember liking what I heard from the score but of course Whitney Houston’s songs take top billing. I especially like “Run to You.”

    Not to be too pedantic but Houston did one more movie before she died called “Sparkle.” It was released about six months after her death.

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